The last post talked about how our family, as the result of circumstances beyond our control, had to re-define itself. This post invites you to take a closer look at your family and to define what you hope it to be and how you can support each other.
Parenting will be messy, complicated, challenging, rapturous, rewarding, heart wrenching, and heart filling. You will be stymied, stumped, swamped, and sustained by the love and challenges you face. As you saunter, skip, or scramble down the path of raising children, it’s worth you time to pause and consider just who you want them to be? Themselves, of course. But part of being “themselves” will include the values and traits you instill in them, as well as the values and traits you strive for as a family.
This is your family. This is your life. You cannot always control what happens nor the actions of those in and around your family. You can, however, set the tone, the tenor, the boundaries, and the expectations. Be open to the beautiful changes and opportunities in life and the inherent joy children bring to our lives. Clinging to expectations – yours or those of others in your tribe – will create tension and suffering. Have expectations, but be willing to hit the pause button to reflect honestly on the circumstances, needs, and priorities.
Modern life for parents and kids has its own challenges for resources, priorities, and success. Every family needs to define its own set of values, priorities and goals, as well as the expectations and boundaries for individuals. Family, in its truest sense, provides a haven for all to be themselves, including the exploration of self and space and ability to test-drive ideas and experiences. It’s a place to relax, process the world and one’s work, and to learn to get along with others. It’s a place where dignity and respect are to be modeled, practiced and where we learn to be accountable for our actions. When we fail, and we WILL, it’s a place we learn to apologize, make reparations and move on knowing the next time it will be different.
If you’re a family caregiver, it’s worth your time to think about how you want your family to be.
If you’re a teacher or work with children, it’s helpful to understand the child in context of your students’ families, or better yet, to get to know the family and what’s most important to them. This process of drafting a family manifesto or defining family priorities or Ways We Want to Be is akin to the process many teachers use at the beginning of the school year facilitate a class’ articulation of their own rules or guidelines. While often called class rules or class covenants, they are much like a manifesto as they state the ideals in the most positive form. These are written and practiced in ways that allow for exceptions or missteps, and in turn, these allow for reflection and growth. These become part of our thought process and guide our behavior. Whether it’s a class rule that we take care of our materials and we forget to put library books away or an instance where our family manifesto says we use kind and respectful words, and we lose our tempers and yell, both examples provide ways for families and classes to talk honestly about what happened, what the underlying needs and feelings might be and how to repair any damages to property or feelings so that folks can do better – or do differently – the next time.
This process reminds me a familiar quote:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
So it’s worth considering your beliefs about family and life. Those beliefs become thoughts and then words, ideally shared with yoru family. In turn, these become your actions and habits before finally, your destiny and legacy.
Show our kids the value of thoughtful reflection and collaboration, setting goals and learning from our mistakes are all value lessons. Maybe even some of the values and traits you might incorporate in your own family manifesto.
What do you believe is most important for your family? Post your short answer in comments. I’d love to hear what’s most important to you.